Month: June 2018

Repression is worsening in Cameroon amid an uprising over language

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THE parade featured singing schoolchildren and goose-stepping soldiers. A giant presidential portrait was wheeled along the boulevard. To some observers it must have looked like a comic sketch about an event staged by an African dictator. But no one dared snigger. The celebration of Cameroon’s national day on May 20th was lorded over by President Paul Biya, who at 85 is Africa’s oldest head of state. He hoped the parade would show national unity. But it hinted at a deep fissure dividing Cameroon. In the country’s two English-speaking regions a simmering uprising has been met by brutal repression. As members of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, marched past the president they showed their indignation. Placards were banned, so the marchers pulled up their shirts to e

Russia struggles to balance between Israel and Iran

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AS MISSILES rolled across Red Square during Russia’s Victory Day parade on May 9th, Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, stood squarely beside President Vladimir Putin. He had come to secure Russian support for containing Iran in Syria. Pinned to his lapel was the orange and black St George’s ribbon, a symbol of the second world war that has become synonymous with Russian revanchism in Ukraine. The overtures appear to have worked: as The Economist went to press, Russia and Israel were finalising an agreement that would attempt to keep Iranian forces some 15 miles (24km) away from the Israeli border in Syria. The agreement highlights Mr Putin’s delicate balancing act in the Middle East. Since intervening in Syria’s civil war in late 2015, Russia has positioned itself as the

Why hearses sport sirens and lights in Guinea

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A SIREN wails out across the jammed streets of Conakry, the capital of Guinea. As horns toot, vehicles part for a car sporting a spinning blue light. It is not the police or an ambulance. Instead a hearse comes wailing through. Politicians and the emergency services are not the only ones to use lights and sirens in Conakry. Congestion is so bad that the dead use them, too. Funerals generally have to take place quickly. Most people in Guinea are Muslims and their faith prohibits the embalming of the dead. It also stipulates that people should be buried as soon as possible after they have died, and generally within 24 hours. Another reason for quick burials is economic. Keeping the remains of a loved one chilled in a mortuary costs about $5.50 a day, or more than twice the average daily w...

Climate change is making the Arab world more miserable

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SIX years ago Nabil Musa, a Kurdish environmentalist, returned from over a decade abroad to find Iraq transformed. Rivers in which he had swum year-round turned to dust in summer. Skies once crowded with storks and herons were empty. Drought had pushed farmers to abandon their crops, and dust storms, once rare, choked the air. Inspired to act, he joined a local conservationist group, Nature Iraq, to lobby for greener practices. But Kurdish officials pay little attention. “One of the last things we want to think about is climate change,” says Mr Musa. Apathy towards climate change is common across the Middle East and north Africa, even as the problems associated with it get worse. Longer droughts, hotter heatwaves and more frequent dust storms will occur from Rabat to Tehran, according t

Egypt’s bumbling police get their man, at least on television

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THE clock is ticking and the interrogation is tense. Hoping to unravel a plot, the warden of Aqrab (“Scorpion”) prison grills an Islamist seated alone in his cell. He scowls, delivers a warning—and then leaves, his questions unanswered. The scene might confuse anyone familiar with Aqrab, one of Egypt’s most notorious jails, where militants and political prisoners are packed into cramped dungeons and tortured. It looks altogether different on “Kalabsh” (“Handcuffs”), a popular series on Egyptian television. The inmates are clean and their interrogations polite, nary a cattle prod in sight. In many Arab homes the television is the centrepiece of Ramadan. Families stuff themselves at iftar, a communal meal at sundown, then sprawl in front of the set to watch nightly serials known as mosals

Ethiopia’s scheme to help the poor is setting an example

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TSIDE ZEWIDE has lived in the shadow of the national palace in Addis Ababa for more than 50 years. Since her husband died four years ago the 73-year-old has cared for three orphans, the grandchildren of her late sister, alone in a rundown government-owned shack. She has no pension and, until recently, had no income. “I relied on the kindness of my neighbours,” she sighs. Last year Mrs Zewide’s fortunes changed. She and some 80 of her neighbours rise at dawn to sweep the streets of the Ethiopian capital for three hours a day. For this she is paid 1,200 Ethiopian birr ($44) a month, a fifth of which she is required to save. “It’s good for me psychologically,” she says. “It keeps me busy, and now at least I can tell people I have a job.” Her teammates nod in agreement. They are participan